Business Planning Made Less Painful

If you’re dreaming of starting a grazing operation, if you’ve ever asked “what kind of animals should I raise?” if you’re considering adding a new enterprise, or would like to get a loan to expand, a business plan is in your future.

Why?

Here I am with a few of the 50 or so kids I raised by hand during the lsat year of my project.
Back in 2002 I was considering starting a prescribed goat grazing business. You can read about my business planning experience here.

Business planning helps you ask questions that clarify where you want to go, and how the potential business would do at getting you there. Yes, it can be tedious. Yes, it can make you feel like you got stuck on an elevator with the most boring person in the universe while on the way to a really great party. But the process gives your dreams a practical foundation and helps you identify problems before they happen so you can create solutions or head a different direction.

Here’s a tool to make it easier.

AgPlan is a website developed by the University of Minnesota that takes users step-by-step through the business planning process for different business types (Ag-Commodity, Ag-Value Added, Organic Transition, Personal Plan or Small Business). Each type has it’s own outline and includes tips or questions to help you develop each section of the plan, as well as examples to look at, and links to additional resources.

For example, I registered (which is free) and selected “Small Business.”

After naming my plan, my account was set up and I could begin the writing process.

I can jump to different sections by clicking on one of the buttons to the left. And, even better, each section includes the topics that I should consider as I’m putting my plan together. I can also allow others to come in and review my plan so I can get comments and suggestions to improve it along the way.

What’s nice about this process is that I can save it and come back to it easily, and when I’m ready, I can print the entire business plan out. I can also jump straight to a section, like the financial plan or the marketing plan and by focusing on just that area, I can decide if the potential enterprise is workable. If it’s not, I can stop the planning process right there.

It will still take time, and a lot of thought, but thanks to the prompts, the tips and the resources provided, I’ll know that I’ve covered all my bases and the results will tell me whether to go forward, or if there are additional problems I need to solve.

Check it out. It’s one of the best tools I’ve found out there.

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